Ukrainian media community calls to release journalist Maria Varfolomeyeva held hostage by “LPR” militants

Ukrainian media community calls to release journalist Maria Varfolomeyeva held hostage by “LPR” militants
June 05, 2015.

Kyiv, June 5, 2015. Ukrainian journalists published an open appeal to the international community and Ukrainian authorities regarding journalist Maria Varfolomeyeva who was illegally detained by the “LPR” militants. Representatives of the Ukrainian media community presented the appeal at the press briefing at Ukraine Crisis Media Center.

On June 4, the appeal was sent to the Ukrainian office of Amnesty International and OSCE. Starting from June 8, everyone will be able to sign an electronic copy of the appeal.

Maria Varfolomeyeva worked with Svobodny reporter [Free reporter] and VostokMedia media outlets. On January 9, 2015, Maria was detained by armed militants for taking pictures of residential buildings in Luhansk; they accused her of spying for the Ukrainian Army and the Right Sector as well as being an artillery fire spotter in the incident that occurred two weeks after Maria had been detained. She was notified that she is facing 15 years in prison. “Several interrogation videos and that of Maria’s confession were published in the Internet. They show that she is under serious psychological pressure,” said Kostyantyn Reutsky of NGO Vostok SOS.

Mr. Reutsky said that militants demanded to swap Maria Varfolomeyeva for one of detained pro-Russian fighters earlier, but they changed their conditions afterwards. It is unknown who the militants want to swap Varfolomeyeva for at the moment, and what’s the current state of negotiations. “Negotiations are being conducted by civic initiatives. Ukraine’s Security Service claims they are also negotiating to free the journalist but we have been hearing the same answer for the last several months,” added Reutsky.

Text of the open appeal to the international community and Ukrainian authorities:

“Ukrainian journalists call to free Maria Varfolomeyeva from captivity

Ukrainian journalist and civic organizations call on the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko, Head of Ukraine’s Security Service Valentyn Nalyvaichenko, international human rights organizations and diplomats to make every effort to free a Luhansk journalist Maria Varfolomeyeva from captivity of the so-called “LPR”.

Maria Varfolomeyeva has been in captivity for almost five months already – more than any other journalist taken captive by Russia-backed militants. On January 9, 2015, she was detained by armed militants while she was taking pictures of residential houses in Luhansk. According to Ms. Varfolomeyeva, she was reporting for one of the media outlets based in Kharkiv.

Later it became known that militants charged her with being an “artillery fire spotter” and she is facing 15 years of “imprisonment”.

Prior to the conquest of Luhansk by the militamts, Maria Varfolomeyeva was working in the local publication Svobodny reporter [Free Reporter] that closed down after military actions started. Editor of “Svobodny reporter” Anna Rudenko has confirmed that the publication cooperated with Ms. Varfolomeyeva on numerous occasions, including the liv broadcaste on “Hromadske TV” on May 23. She has also cooperated with Vostok-Media Internet publication and worked as fixer for the national TV channels.”

At the moment conditions in which Varfolomeyeva is being kept remain unknown. However, it is obvious that she’s being under serious psychological pressure – she’s being forced to make numerous video addresses and confessions, while Russian media turned her detention into a show.

Ukrainian journalists also call on international organizations, including OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatović, Reporters Without Borders, Committee to Protect Journalists, Freedom House, the UN and diplomatic representative offices in Ukraine, particularly the EU Delegation to Ukraine, to make every effort to help free Maria Varfolomeyeva from long-lasting captivity.

Signatories

Stop Censorship movement

Institute of Mass Information NGO

Telekrytyka NGO

Institute for Development of Regional Press NGO

Independent media union of Ukraine

National journalists union of Ukraine

Ukraine Crisis Media Center

Oleksiy Matsuka, Radio Liberty

Kostiantyn Rieutskyi, Informator.lg.ua

Vakalo Olga, editor, Zaporizha regoinal state broadcasting company

Boiko Svitlana, freelance film director, Independent media union

Hrodz Yevgen, postagraduate student, Classical Private University

Filipenko Olena, teacher, Gorkovo seconadary school

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